Since October of 2001, the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition (PPRC) has sponsored a Friday evening demonstration at Pioneer Square hoping to draw attention to the Bush administration's screw-ups from Iraq to Palestine. While the demonstrations have been admirable in their tenacity, over the months and years, the number of protesters has dwindled.
Last weekend PPRC had hoped to reinvigorate the flagging anti-war movement. In conjunction with other marches across the country—and a moderate-sized protest in Washington, DC—PPRC hosted yet another rally on Friday, September 23. But ultimately, it was a faint echo compared to the massive marches three years ago.
Even so, local activists remain optimistic. According to Will Seaman of the PPRC, the rallies "reflect growing opposition to the war in Iraq and the rapidly declining approval rating of the president."
Perhaps, but the numbers last weekend certainly didn't show it. Friday's mood was relatively subdued.
State Representative Chip Shields, who has pushed for legislation calling for withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq by October 2006, admitted it would be great to have 50,000 people show up. However, as he put it, "you do what you can."
The quaint showing at Friday's demonstration was followed by a better-attended candlelight vigil the next evening. As the Saturday sun fell low over the city, hundreds of Portlanders flooded the Burnside, Morrison, and Hawthorne Bridges with candles, signs, and guitars.
"We've signed the petitions, we've called our congress people," sighed one weary demonstrator on the Morrison Bridge. "What more can we do?"
But in what might be the most promising development in the anti-war movement, the protest was matched in numbers and size by similar demonstrations in communities like Albany and Estacada. The nation's rural areas and small towns are the places that have been most directly affected by soldiers' deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.